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Alcohol and other drugs have been used by human beings throughout history, and New Zealanders are no different. 44% of adult New Zealanders will try an illicit drug at some point, and 93% will try alcohol.

People use alcohol and other drugs for many reasons, including: pleasure and recreation; spiritual discovery; physical or mental performance enhancement; experimentation; peer pressure; or to medicate physical problems or emotional pain.

Most people who use substances do so without long-lasting negative effects. However, for those who do suffer harms, these can be wide-ranging; including: injury; disease; personal, social and financial problems; and a reduced quality of life for individuals, their whānau and communities.

45,000 of New Zealanders receive support to reduce their alcohol or drug use each year, and this is estimated to be only one third of those who are experiencing problems with their use. The current legal prohibition of some drugs in New Zealand also means that we spend a great deal on enforcement – including Police, courts and prison beds.   


Billion: Estimated annual social cost of illicit drug-related harm

The drugs that cause the most harm in NZ are alcohol and tobacco

Illicit drug use in NZ is lower than people generally think

Illicit drug use among teenagers is uncommon but is more likely to cause harm

The costs of drug use to society are significant

Where we got our figures from


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